Jesus in the Psalms (Psalm 41:9)
Topic: One Truth: Your Word is Truth Passage: Psalm 41:9
I. An Ancient Anachronism?
The TV series M*A*S*H ran for eleven years, from 1972 to 1983. Those who have seen the show know that it was set in a “mobile army surgical hospital” operating during the Korean War, between the years 1950 and 1953. What's interesting about those dates is that during one of the episodes in season four of the show, a soldier can be seen reading a classic “Avengers” comic book. But while soldiers did read comic book, Marvel's “Avengers” did not debut until 1963.
That mistake, that prop person's mistake, is what we call an anachronism, something that's misplaced in time. There are lots and lots of examples of anachronisms in movies and television shows (most of them accidental, of course). For example, in the 1991 film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Morgan Freeman's Muslim character is depicted using a rudimentary spyglass or telescope. But that optical innovation actually comes from the Netherlands in the 1600s, long after the Medieval setting of Robin Hood.
But if you haven't already seen the title of my message this morning, take a look at it with me: “Jesus in the Psalms”. Now, for anyone who has in their mind even the most basic Bible timeline, that sounds like an anachronism; something misplaced in time. The book of Psalms was composed hundreds and hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. So how in the world would (or could) we meet Jesus in the book of Psalms? Let's attempt to answer that question by looking at Psalm 41. Turn there if you haven't already.
II. The Passage: “The Scripture Will Be Fulfilled”
As I was reading through last week's selections from Our Bible Reading Plan, I ran across this statement in verse 9 of Psalm 41 (a psalm attributed to David)...
Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
The context of this short psalm makes it clear that David composed this song while suffering with some kind of sickness. But instead of having friends who stopped by with a meal and a kind word, David is visited by fake well-wishers who secretly hope for his demise. We see this in 6-7:
And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.
But in spite of this, David is confident that God will (v. 11) not allow his “enemy... to shout in triumph over [him]”. Having talked about his care for the poor in verse 1, David speaks again of God rewarding his integrity in verse 12... “But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.”
But what really caught my attention in regard to verse 9 was the familiarity of the language... a familiarity from... the New Testament. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 13, at his last supper:
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’” (v. 18)
Based on the context in John, and in light of the other Gospels, it's clear Jesus is speaking here about the betrayal of Judas. But notice he's not only using the language of Psalm 41:9, he's claiming the verse “will be fulfilled” in his own experience of betrayal, not the psalmist's; not David's. That's stunning. But it makes sense of what Jesus told his followers after the resurrection, in Luke 24:44...
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
“Everything written about me in... the Psalms...”. Maybe in your reading last week you made the same connection as you read a verse like Psalm 41:9. But maybe you also noticed other verses from the Psalms like this over the past several weeks.
The words of Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”, are connected to Christ by both Paul in Acts 13:33, and by the author of the book of Hebrews in 1:5 and 5:5 of that book.
Similarly, Psalm 2:8-9 description of God's king ruling the nations with “a rod of iron” appear three times in Revelation (chps. 2, 12, 19), all in reference to Jesus.
David's description in Psalm 8:6, of how God has “given [man] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet”, is connected in Hebrews 2:6-9 with Jesus.
As I mentioned last time, when David joyfully confesses in Psalm 16:10, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption”, he's declaring a truth that the New Testament explicitly connects to the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 2 and Acts 13.
And then there's Psalm 22. The opening verse of this psalm contains the very words Jesus used while suffering on the cross, as recorded by Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then the description in 22:7-8 of David's opponents mocking him in his suffering and wagging their heads, saying “let [Yahweh] deliver him”, that description is clearly reflected in Matthew 27 and Mark 15's description of Jesus' critics as he hung dying on the cross. But there's more: the Gospel of John tells us about another explicit fulfillment in John 19:24, where it says this about the soldiers who crucified Jesus...
...so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things...
The Scripture said to be fulfilled there is Psalm 22:18. Finally, in Hebrews 2:12 we hear the words of Psalm 22:22, as the word “brothers” there is linked with Jesus and what he accomplished to make all of us children of God.
Though it wasn't in our reading plan, it's worth noting that Psalm 31 also contains words used by Jesus in Luke 23:46 as he gave up his life on the cross. David writes there, “Into your hand I commit my spirit...”
David also tells us this about the righteous man in Psalm 34:20, “He [God] keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.” And once again, the Gospel of John explicitly talks about the fulfillment of that verse in John 19:36 when the soldiers came to break the legs of Jesus to hasten his death, but found him already dead: John comments: “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
A more obscure example may be a statement from Psalm 35:19 about being “hated without cause”, said in John 15:25 to be fulfilled in light of the world's hatred of Jesus.
Finally, from last week's readings, we also came across Psalm 40:6-8, where we heard these words from David:
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
What is David describing here? He's describing the importance of what Samuel taught: “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). And he's talking about this obedience, this delight in doing God's will, as... king, as the royal one talked about in the scroll of Deuteronomy, chp. 17. Why is Psalm 40:6-8 significant? Because all three of those verses are quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7 and applied to Jesus, and to his perfect sacrifice... that ended the need for any other sacrifice.
So think about this: from the twelve psalms we've looked at so far in Our Bible Reading Plan, I just shared with you eleven verses/passages, ten of which are explicitly connected with Jesus Christ in the NT, and four of which are found in the Gospel of John and used in passages that explicitly speak about “the Scripture [being] fulfilled”. And if we were to continue in the Psalms, we would find ten more passages directly linked in the NT to Jesus. And just one of those next ten verses/passages, Psalm 110:1, is quoted or alluded to seventeen times in the NT.
Remember the seemingly anachronistic title of this message, “Jesus in the Psalms”? I don't think we're still asking the question, “Is Jesus really in the Psalms?” I think we're now asking, “How is Jesus in the Psalms?” He's there in the same way he's there in the ark of Noah, or the sacrificial lamb of Leviticus, or in the predictions of prophets like Isaiah. Though not mentioned by name, the Psalms powerfully point us to Jesus, in a variety of ways. Let me focus on just one of those ways.
What seems especially clear from our recent readings is that most of the 'Jesus connections' the NT makes to the book of Psalms revolve around... the cross. Yes, some verses, like Psalm 22:1 and 34:20 point us directly to Christ on the cross. But others (like 35:19 and 41:9) speak about the rejection that culminated in the cross. And still others, like Psalm 16:10, point us beyond his death on the cross, to Christ's victory over death itself. In fact, twelve of the twenty or so Jesus verses/passages in the Psalms connect us in some way to the cross of Christ.
This is by far the most common way the Psalms prepare us for Jesus. But why this emphasis? I think it mainly has to do with David's relationship to the Psalms. David was a man both selected by God, and one who suffered for God.
It's no wonder then that the perfect descendant of imperfect David would fulfill as Messiah (i.e., as the anointed king), that He would bring to fullness, the very same pattern of suffering and deliverance and glory described in so many of David's Psalms.
III. Filled Daily In Light of His Fulfillment
But what does that mean for us? Why does any of this matter beyond the category of “interesting Bible facts”? Well, I would think that if someone really understood this, they would...
(1.) Be in awe of God's fulfillment. To have so many ideas and phrases and events line up between David and a descendant who lived a thousand years after his time is absolutely astonishing. And what's interesting is that since these were not explicit prophecies about the coming Messiah, its much hard for a critic say, “Oh, Jesus or his people simply orchestrated things to line up with these prophecies.” (as if that were somehow easy to do) This pattern of the suffering and deliverance and glory of the Davidic king is far more subtle. It's such a powerful reminder that our faithful and sovereign God had and has a plan that he has brought and will bring to pass... perfectly. Does that encourage you? It should.
(2.) Be on the lookout for Jesus. As you continue to read through the Psalms (in the coming weeks and anytime in the future), look for any and every reminder of Jesus. A verse or phrase may sound familiar to you; and your Bible may have a cross reference that confirms a NT/Jesus connection. But at other times, it may simply be a psalm about God's compassion and forgive-ness that reminds you of what Christ died to make possible. Or it may be a passage about the psalmist's righteousness that leads your heart back to the righteousness of Jesus that now covers us by God's grace. Maybe a psalm about worship inspires you to worship Jesus, or a verse about God's judgment or God's mighty deeds reminds you of the cross and empty tomb. Whatever the spark, ask God to set your heart ablaze with a clear view of your Savior and Lord. What an important reminder that there is an “everything written about [Jesus] in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” and that all of it, “must be fulfilled.”
Finally, (3.) Be grateful He suffered for you. What has our main text in Psalm 41:9 revealed this morning? That Jesus was betrayed by a friend in order that we might be God's friends. That he was mocked, so that God would delight in us. He was rejected that we might be embraced. Hated that we might experience eternal love. Abused that we might know incomparable comfort.
Those are some of the difficult realities we've talked about this morning. And since all these were foretold, since he knew he had come to fulfill them, Jesus lived everyday knowing the hurt, knowing the anguish that was coming. Can you imagine knowing all this in advance?
And if the NT, if Jesus himself, clearly connects psalms about this kind of suffering with the sufferings of Christ, then as you read these ancient songs of lament and complaint, as you read these cries to God in light of injustice and persecution, you can use all of these psalms of suffering to remember what Jesus did for you; what Jesus suffered for you. Though the Scriptures speak about many righteous men and women who suffered in one or another, no one ever has or ever will suffer like Jesus. We read in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...” (1 Peter 3:18a) Some-how it's easy for us to forget both the reality of our immense need and the reality of his astonishing love. Let's take a moment to ask God, with gratitude, to regularly remind us of what the Psalms foretold; to remind us through His word, his Spirit, and through one another.
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023)
August 27, 2023Praying for God's People (Daniel 9:17-19)
August 20, 2023Daniel's 'Not of This World' Example (Daniel 1:8-17)
August 13, 2023The Shepherd's Rescue (Ezekiel 34:10-12)